It takes a village to battle crime

Published 9:35 am Friday, August 12, 2011

by Tia Turner

Among recent arrests in Franklin, four were natives of the city and one was from Southampton County, all between the ages of 19 and 26 — young black men with children.

They are just among the most recent; however, these have been scrutinized because of the accusations made by the Franklin Police Department linking them to “gang activity.” Yet they were never seen wearing the same color clothing; none of them had similar tattoos. There were never any fights over turf. Strong accusations with no validity.

When the article was published about the arrests, the affidavit was also made available to the public, giving the citizens details about the “confidential informants,” making them no longer confidential.

In the midst of the recession, it seems America’s prison system is benefiting from the inmate business with drug enforcement policies serving up black men as a steady stream of income. But even with the current trends and policies, are we conceding that these conditions make it inevitable for black men to end up behind bars?

One thing is certain: The best way to avoid getting trapped in the system is to stay out of it in the first place. The discrimination faced by former inmates is so stark that it often makes it close to impossible to navigate through society and rebuild their lives.

There is an old proverb that says “it takes a village to raise a child.” This ancient African proverb teaches eternal truth. No man, woman or family is an island.

But in the lean and mean 2000s, the City of Franklin and Southampton County aren’t always what they are supposed to be. We’d all like to think we live in a place where people care about others, where people pitch in to help when things get rough, where it’s safe to leave the doors unlocked and let the kids play around outside.

This isn’t always what we experience. Instead of community, we find alienation. Looking for safety, we are attacked by crime. Hoping for a better life for our kids, we encounter gangs and drugs and the lies of television.

People often retreat behind closed and double locked doors and try to ignore their neighbors. Politicians preach envy and hate, dividing us further instead of working for reconciliation. Being poor these days just isn’t what it used to be.

Today poor people are pawns in games of poli-tricks. People say, “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, my grandfather did.”

That may be true, but many of those “bootstraps” are no longer available today. And the first and foremost problem is that the supportive community of our grandparents’ day — the village, the neighborhood, that place where people looked out for each other and supported each other, where they shared joys and sorrows, good times and bad times — in many places is no more. It has gone the way of the gaslight, the horse and the buggy. And we’re paying a really big price for that loss.

It does take a village to work with the family, to raise a child and weather the storms of life. If we want that kind of support, the place to begin is with ourselves. Community, like charity, begins at home.

You start building a good neighborhood when you decide that you will be a good neighbor. If you don’t know anyone on your block, you can take the initiative. You can bake some bread and take it to your neighbors and introduce yourself. You can join a church and become part of that community. You can reach out to your own network of friends and start building community.

There are many things that we just don’t have much control over. But like eating good food, building community is something that you can do, right here, right now, in the place where you are now — whether or not you have a job, an education, or a car.

Be the first one on your block to reach out and touch your neighbor. Find together in Christ a new sense of purpose and life on your street. Make your neighborhood your village and find the truth that humans have learned the hard way.

United we stand, divided we fall; cooperation is as important as competition. Maybe, at certain times and places, it’s more important. Be a part of the City of Franklin becoming a village again. Then we might not have to watch five of our own on the news and in the papers, their children left fatherless, and families left distraught.

TIA TURNER is a nearly lifelong resident of Ivor and graduate of Southampton High school. She can be reached at